Accounting Interview

Informational interviews are a real underutilized resource available to the public. Information interviews allow young professionals to hear the wisdom from professionals, to whom they may aspire to be — professionally someday. You can go to class learn the material and acquire all of the acumen possible. Yet one thing a class can’t really teach is the experiences you will face in the office. The true day to day challenges and activities you will be doing. That is why informational interviews are a useful tool that all young professionals should do a few times. Also, as a hidden bonus it is a great way to apply to a company without them even knowing!

The Contact

  • Name: Patrick Ploumen
  • Title/Position: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Company: Marquette Commercial Financial
  • Industry: Accounting Receivable / Finance

Questions about the Contact

Question 1: What does Marquette Financial do?

Response 1: Marquette finances trucking and transportation companies. You see in the trucking industry after a driver completes a delivery; commonly the company does not receive payment on delivery. What Marquette does is that we will give the company the cash upfront for a small percentage of the payment. We allow companies to have cash now so they have no cash flow issues. It’s a win win for both companies.

Question 2: What makes you say it is a win win for both companies?

Response 2: Well Marquette being able to pay the trucking company the cash up front they are able to pay their drivers and expenses. If the company was to decide to just take the full payment from the delivery it commonly takes up to three months to receive the payment. Those three months can easily cause all sorts of problems within the company. Also there is never a 100% guarantee that the company will still be around after three months. With us they ship all the risk to us. We taking that risk enjoy a small slice of the pie 2–5% roughly.

Question 3: If you’re only making 2% of the money a trucking company how can Marquette provide the cash to their client?

Response 3: Well Marquette may receive a small sliver of the pie. Yet we have hundreds to thousands of clients. You take so many small slivers and eventually you have a small buffet of pies at your disposal. Which also allows us to have such a diverse basket that the risk is fairly low from us. Yes of course, a client give us some bad noncollectable credit. That’s okay since roughly 96% of our debtors do end up paying.

Questions about Communications Practices and Writing

Question 1: Could you please describe the typical kinds of writing you do and tell me a bit about each?

Response 1: Of course, a lot of my writing is done through email. As a Chief Financial Officer a lot of my communication is done through the few accountants below me. They will email me certain documents all usually end up in the financial statements. So if I am not communicating with those accountants; I would say the other half of my communication goes into getting information ready for my supervisors. As a CFO I have to go over the financial statements make sure they are accurate and easy to understand. After I do that frequently I will have to do small quick meetings roughly every other week to keep the higher-ups informed on the companies financials. That presentation comes in two forms a small memo email to them and the small presentation that I will do on PPT. a day or two in advance.

Question 2: What do you find most challenging about your day-to-day writing? What challenges do recent graduates face as they move from “academic writing” to “workplace writing”?

Response 2: The thing I find most challenging is the content of my writing. I am writing mostly about financial statements; and for the most part they remain rather stable month to month. It is almost easy too simply overlook something because there is not a lot of variety in the writing.

For the idea of moving to “academic” to “workplace” writing I would say the biggest issue is how my young accountants email me. Yes, I understand that they want to look professional by giving me a well formatted and long email. Yet, the funny thing is that they try so hard to look “professional” that they cloud their message. Honestly I could read their email and probably delete half of it. I don’t mind the formality it’s just when I get a couple emails of those a day it ends up eating a lot of my time. I just want to get a general picture, and then I want to continue on with my day.

Question 3: How would you describe the balance between written and oral communication in your workplace?

Response 3: I would say a much larger portion of my communication would be comprised mostly of written communication than oral communication. I sort of went over the writing communication; but the oral communication I do in my daily life deals a lot with outside my office. Commonly, I will go walk around check in on the younger accountants make sure everything is going smooth. Yet one big thing that I do for oral communication is that I have to give those roughly biweekly meetings to some supervisors. That is where a lot of my professional oral communication comes into play. It’s nice because it is not a lot of pressure. I do not care for giving public speeches to an audience that I am unfamiliar with. But I know a lot of my supervisors personally, and they are all kind genuine people. This makes giving the meetings easy and not nerve wracking.

Questions seeking Advice for you

Question 1: What is something you wish the younger you would have known about the accounting world?

Response 1: Haha, something I wish I could go back in time and tell myself is to not be afraid of small inconsequential errors. Many times you know the books are going to add up to exact dollar and change. That is okay (to a reasonable amount). There is nothing wrong with writing up a couple hundred of dollars every month or so. When a company like ours deals with multi-million dollar deals sometimes a couple dollars go missing. Just write it off and move on with your life. Sometimes when I was younger I would try to find out where I went wrong with my small write-off. I could have saved myself a lot of headaches by just moving on.

Question 2: What would you recommend to a young professional who wants to become a CFO someday?

Response 2: My recommendation would be to get the experience. I had the good fortune of finding a small accounting job out of college where I was able to really get a good grip on the basics. By basics I mean from posting in journals, fixing balance sheets, and basic taxes. You can learn all about how to do this in college, but man will I tell you that by just doing the material you really start to understand the material. Learn as much as you like, but just by doing actual accounting stuff you will absorb and learn a whole lot more.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Getting to talk to Patrick was a truly helpful moment for my professional career. By talking to Patrick I got to learn a lot about what an accountant does. I was always worried by giving speeches and meetings; but his idea on that you will be giving a lot of internal presentations and that truly takes the edge off. Also Patrick’s idea of not getting too hung up on everything being 100% perfect really speaks to me. As an accounting student it really does bug me when everything doesn’t end up being 100% perfect like it does in the homework. He said to me “don’t get hung up over a couple hundred dollars, That’ll take up way too much of your time. Also, as an accountant you’re dealing with millions and millions of dollars. Why spend a couple hours of your day for something so insignificant. Your company is not paying you to save them a couple hundred; but to be doing something meaningful.” In the end I feel much more confident in my choice to pursue being an accounting professional. With a personal goal of becoming a CFO someday.